Sometimes the unexpected happens. When it does, VCU will be prepared to keep on teaching and keep on learning. Were we to have a blizzard or some other surprise event, no doubt we will eventually experience a moment where all in-person academic meetings will need to transition to a remote format. If all or part of VCU instructional locations become unavailable or need to be closed, academic continuity can maintain course progression.
These guidelines were created to support our students through the fall 2020 final exam process and reflect VCU’s ongoing commitment to our students’ success and well-being.
This fall 2020 semester brought a significantly greater number of asynchronous courses that may fall outside the structure of the final exam week schedule. Although all final exams will occur within the week reserved for finals, many courses do not have a built-in meeting time for the exam. In fact, now more than ever, students will be taking exams that are open for 2-3 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, or perhaps for several days.
Students with three or more exams scheduled on one calendar day (or 24 hour period) and who wish to request a revision of that schedule should first contact each of their instructors to determine if there is flexibility for rescheduling one of their exams.
If a student needs further assistance with communicating with their instructors, the student may contact the designated academic affairs representative in the college or school of their major. (Note: Provost’s Office will work with colleges/schools associate deans for academic affairs to create contact information.)
Faculty or staff who know of a student needing assistance and who was not able to find an answer from the Keep Learning resources are encouraged to submit the form below (You will need to be logged into your VCU Google account.):Refer a student for additional support
The IT Support Center provides support for hardware (i.e. laptops, etc.) and other enterprise services (i.e. Google Docs, VPN, forms, etc.)
ITSC@vcu.edu or (804) 828-2227
Available Monday-Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm, and by appointment outside of those hours.
VCU offers a wide variety of support options for faculty. Please see the image below for additional details.A visual organizer depecting available support options. The link leads to an accessible PDF version. [View Image]
Please share these Keep Learning student support resources with your students.
This toolkit was developed to provide faculty with options to keep teaching and for faculty to consider providing options for students to support them as they keep learning. The tips, strategies, tools, and resources below are not intended to be a comprehensive lesson in online course pedagogy. The core purpose is to support faculty with a rapid transition to remote instruction that will promote course completion. As outlined below, VCU aims to approach all aspects of academic continuity with flexibility, care, compassion, kindness, creativity, and positivity.
Be proactive- As you prepare for change, a proactive approach before the urgent need arises is always the preferred approach. Nothing beats getting prepared in advance for any unexpected situation that may require in-person courses and other academic work to be rapidly converted to a remote or online format. The more you prepare in advance, the easier the transition.
Prioritize care, compassion, kindness- Some of your students may need to miss class, find alternate ways to submit assignments depending on their technology/wifi access, or request an extension for an assignment/exam. Knowing that you care about them and their success may make all the difference in their motivation, persistence, and ultimate success in course completion.
Stay calm- Students look to you for leadership. If students see that you are calm and that you are assuring them everything will be ok with the course, that will go a long way to keep them positive and engaged. You set the tone for helping your students stay calm.
Keep it simple- Please do not expect to launch a fully online course that would typically take 18 months to develop. Choose tools that are already in use by both you and the students.You do not need all the bells and whistles to be effective. Keep it simple and choose technology tools that will support your particular learning goals and needs.
Practice pedagogical flexibility- In times of rapid transition to remote teaching, flexibility goes a long way. Pedagogical flexibility allows us to get creative with assignment design, exam format, options for students such as choosing from a list of projects, interactive discussions, avenues for student submission of their work, etc. At its core, teaching is a creative process.
Support our student community- keep in mind under-served and marginalized students may experience disproportionate stressors including lack of resources or need for an accessible format. Your support and flexibility can make all the difference in student success.
Seek support from colleagues- We encourage faculty to stay in communication with colleagues both in your own department and also across the university for ideas on how best to transition to remote teaching. There are likely some discipline-specific needs that may be solved with creativity in brainstorming with faculty teaching similar content.
Communicate frequently and concisely, especially when you first move the class online. If you already have an established pattern and place for communication, continue using it. If not, establishing a consistent pattern and place for communication with students will help students gain comfort and prevent confusion.
When you make an announcement in Blackboard/Canvas, you can also send it as an email to the students in your course. This gives students the benefit of an email alert and a place to reference all announcements they cannot be accidentally deleted or lost.
Email may be the place you feel most comfortable. Consider building a mailing list per class to help manage your student addresses. Larger classes will need a Google Group to avoid being flagged as spam. Additional information on getting students emails, creating email lists, and general email productivity tips can be found under resources.
Google Drive is the VCU-supported file management option outside Blackboard/Canvas. It can hold content created with Google Apps in addition to any file you choose to upload. It’s a good choice if you need to collaboratively edit, comment on work, or share very large files.
When thinking about lecture options it is important to realize that live video is more challenging than recording video ahead of time. Allowing students to access content on their schedule also has advantages. Consider saving live interactions for when you want back-and-forth dialog with students. Keeping asynchronous videos short (6-10 minutes) will help increase viewing completion and reduce technical issues. See VCU Best Practices for Teaching Remotely with Zoom for additional suggestions and FERPA details.
Zoom is a good option for live video and audio conferencing, collaboration, and chat across mobile devices, desktops, and telephones.
Kaltura Capture lets you record and publish videos and screencasts. These videos can then easily be shared with students for viewing as their schedule allows.
Hangouts Meet is a video meeting option from Google that makes scheduling and joining a meeting easier. Whether you’re using a computer, an Android, or iOS device, you can access meetings in one place.
When creating content online, it is important to consider the accessibility of the material and the mobile-friendliness of the format. Stick with tools you’re familiar with initially but don’t be afraid to try new options as your needs change and things settle down.
The Google Suite is a set of free tools closely aligned to Microsoft’s Office suite. These tools offer increased flexibility for viewing across devices and provide increased options for online collaboration.
The familiar collection of office applications including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Be aware that Publisher and Access have no direct counterparts on Macs or with Google Apps so accessing those file types may create problems for some students.
In a situation where students are not able to come to campus or go to testing centers the VCU honor pledge becomes of paramount importance. There are no simple solutions if you were planning on most of your assessments being proctored, in-person multiple choice tests. Quizzes and other mechanically graded options could provide formative assessment data with projects or other more individualized work playing a larger role in summative assessments. That is a difficult shift to make and more complex with larger enrollments.
Best Practices for Promoting Academic Honesty in Online Exams provides suggestions and guidance to promote a culture of honesty, consider alternate exam designs, prepare students, and plan for exam delivery.
Students using Respondus are unable to print, copy, visit other websites, access other applications, or close a quiz until it is submitted for grading. Requires Blackboard or Canvas usage.
This Google tool creates a simple, mobile-friendly form that can be accessed through a web browser or embedded in an email. The ability to embed the form directly into email can make it very easy for students to engage with and use.
Some opportunities won’t be present in student homes. Labs, clinical placements, art courses, and other site-specific or hardware/software-specific activities will require flexibility and creativity. Parity may not be possible, focusing on the learning objective will help.
Given how individualized this work can be we are available to help think through different options.
If a VCU student or employee tests positive for COVID-19, please report it directly to University Student Health or Employee Health. University Student Health or Employee Health will ensure that appropriate state and local health care authorities are provided necessary information and that personal privacy considerations are respected. VCU will follow notification procedures recommended by these authorities.
Request Library Instruction: If your class requires library instruction, librarians at Cabell and Tompkins-McCaw Libraries can meet your needs in a variety of ways. As a result of the pandemic, library instruction will be offered remotely unless there is a compelling reason for in-person delivery. Librarians are able to deliver instruction in a variety of synchronous or asynchronous formats.
Online and in-person help: VCU Libraries is here to support you and your students’ research needs and answer questions about our services, spaces or collections.
Access to libraries resources: While the libraries are open, they continue to support access to many resources online or through pickup and delivery services to accommodate remote and off-campus access.
Open and affordable course content: VCU Libraries Open and Affordable Course Content Initiative supports instructors as they work to transition their courses to zero textbook cost courses, using either library content or open educational resources, much of which is online and appropriate for remote instruction.
Wifi/internet access: employees and students can add “hot spots” to their wireless cellphone plans or access VCU SafeNet while being in your car in/around the VCU campuses.
A number of companies are offering both reduced cost and increased bandwidth options.
We are all moving forward into uncharted territory. For students with approved accommodations, there may be some changes to how these are implemented. This will become a collaborative process between you, the student, and, if needed, the Office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (for programs on the Monroe Park Campus) or the Division for Academic Success (for programs in Health Science programs). For those students who have accommodations in place, start a conversation as soon as possible to discuss how they will translate to a remote/online format. SAEO (email@example.com) and DAS (firstname.lastname@example.org) are here to help with this process.
Online delivery of materials presents a whole new array of potential barriers. Please make every effort to select videos or content that are captioned or include transcripts. If you would like additional information about how to select or create accessible online materials, please contact SAEO or DAS.
Here's a video for Quick & Dirty Tips for Online Teaching: Accessibility.
While we aren't engaging face-to-face at this time there are still ways to keep working with, and for, our communities.
Expectations for student privacy are the same for online and face-to-face classes. As you explore more tools to interact with and provide feedback to your students, you may wonder if you are maintaining privacy for protected student data. As a general rule, rely on university supported tools and understand that grades and other forms of feedback should be transmitted within a dual authenticated system (like the BlackBoard or Canvas LMS) to ensure FERPA compliance. As you select tools to mediate instructional activities, consider if a similar level of privacy can be maintained that students would expect in a classroom environment.
Virginia Commonwealth University remains committed to promoting a culture of inclusion for all its employees, patients and students. Discrimination or discriminatory harassment is unlawful. It is also harmful to the well-being of our university community. We are aware of the news reports regarding bullying, harassment and stereotyping of Chinese Americans and persons of Asian descent in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19). There is no place for this sort of behavior, especially not at VCU. Our university values, specifically those related to diversity and inclusion, have withstood many difficult situations and trying times, and they will not falter now. Please be assured that VCU will make every effort to prevent the occurrence of unlawful discrimination and, if necessary, take prompt and appropriate action to remedy and prevent its re-occurrence. Every member of our community is asked to: